Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Q+A: Asian Studies Must Start in Primary School, Says Uni Expert

UTS Fairfax building, Ultimo
UTS Fairfax building, Ultimo (Wikipedia)
by Sunanda Creagh, Editor - The Conversation, interviewing Professor William Purcell, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (International and Development) at University of Technology, Sydney, The Conversation: http://theconversation.edu.au

Australian universities will not be able to produce graduates fluent in complex Asian languages without a massive funding boost and a rethink of language and cultural literacy teaching in schools, a senior university executive has said.

The federal government’s white paper on Australia in the Asian Century, released on Sunday, said the nation’s future prosperity depended on a huge increase in Asia cultural literacy, people-to-people links and competency in languages such as Hindi, Mandarin and Indonesian.

In this Q+A, the University of Technology Sydney’s Deputy Vice Chancellor and chair of the Universities Australia DVC International Committee, Professor William Purcell - who is fluent in Japanese and Korean - outlines what the sector needs to deliver the government’s vision.

What is your general response to the white paper?

It is a very pleasing report which recognises the importance of Australia’s positioning in Asia. It recognises the absolutely critical role that Australian universities and educational institutions are going to play in this strategy.

Generally, Australian universities, especially over the last five years, have moved from their international focus being on recruitment of international students to their engagement abroad in terms of deepening and strengthening our relationships to develop enduring and meaningful partnerships.

We are more focused on research training links, by which I mean joint and dual PhD programs, which really are the measure of internationalisation. You have students moving between labs in Australia and Asia, they have two supervisors, they spend a year in-country and you develop a range of significant links and resulting joint publications.

At UTS, for example, we have four key technology partners in China and we have dual PhD programs with all of those universities.

At UTS, we have a lot of joint research centres with our overseas partners, [which] provide a really significant infrastructure for research and training. I think all of the Australian universities have moved toward what we call this third wave of internationalisation.

About 25 Australian universities have campuses and courses in Asia already. RMIT has a significant campus in Vietnam with about 20,000 students. I think about 65% or more of our international students come from the major Asian countries.

What more needs to be done to help universities deliver on the goals outlined in the paper?

We also have to increase the mobility level of our students going to Asia, building their global skills by experiences abroad. Traditionally, they have been six month or one-year exchange for credit. But we have more students working full time so we need to find new ways to send them abroad for short term programs of four to eight weeks.

We have worked hard to do this at UTS through our BUILD program. For example, last year we sent our film students to do a Bollywood director shadowing program, we sent our business students to study micro finance programs in India, we sent our design students to study textiles in India.

To read further, go to: http://theconversation.edu.au/q-a-asian-studies-must-start-in-primary-school-says-uni-expert-10401?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+30+October+2012&utm_content=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+30+October+2012+CID_97fa2d7756a02242a0edcfa59407c901&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=QA%20Asian%20studies%20must%20start%20in%20primary%20school%20says%20uni%20expert
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